This past week, a colleague and I attended the 2018 Lifesaver’s National Conference on Highway Safety Priorities in San Antonio, Texas. This annual conference gathers traffic safety professionals from all across the U.S. and this year, they had over 2,000 attendants.
Dr. Sha Mamun and I were asked to participate in a conference workshop on pedestrian safety. Our workshop, “Using Data to Address Distracted Walking”, focused on taking action and implementing public policy initiatives in communities to improve pedestrian safety, namely the issue of distracted walking. Our presentation discussed our research center’s development of pedestrian safety hot spot analysis tools, as well as some preliminary findings from a subsequent, ongoing observational study of distracted walking behaviors. We were joined on our panel by two safety experts affiliated with SafeKids, Ms. Lee Penny, the Manager of Safe Kids Upstate in South Carolina and the Bradshaw Institute for Community Child Health & Advocacy and Mr. Tony Green, the Director of Public Policy for Safe Kids Worldwide out of Washington, D.C.
I also attended a few workshop presentations during my time at the conference. The first had to do with automated vehicle technologies and trying to understand its impact on society. Presenters from this workshop discussed an over-arching theme of a lack of understanding on the part of consumers as to what the automated features on their vehicle actually do. It was explained that part of the issue is that there is no consensus on what we are calling all of these systems, even across manufacturers, which leads to confusion. Another concern was that consumers may go to their dealership with the expectation that the staff there is fully equipped to explain all the automated functions of their vehicle to them and this is not always the case, so consumers are left to self-educate.
Another thought provoking workshop I attended was on drugged driving, which included presenters from Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. The content centered around crafting effective campaigns to combat drugged driving, with speakers discussing what has worked for them and possibly more importantly, what hasn’t. Takeaways from this workshop included the fact that it is crucial to know your target audience when crafting campaigns and part of that entails bringing them in on some of the planning and development of these safety campaigns. Colorado, which legalized recreational use of marijuana in 2012, has received a lot of feedback from residents, specifically “cannabis consumers”, regarding their campaigns about drugged driving and that in part helped to drive the direction of future messaging. Another important issue discussed was that prescription drug use is increasing dramatically. Among those most often prescribed are Xanax, Ambien and narcotic pain killers or opioids (i.e. oxycodone and fentanyl). Data was presented that indicated consumers of these prescription drugs may feel that the medication is not only safe to drive on but also that it was not illegal to drive while on this medication because it is prescribed to them by a medical professional, which is completely UNTRUE. Driving under the influence of these types of medications is no different then driving while impaired from alcohol because these prescription drugs produce similar physiological affects as alcohol.
Many other traffic safety partners and experts presented exhibits and participated in workshops to share their knowledge on various topics including but not limited to teen drivers, distracted driving and driving impaired. Visit the Lifesaver’s website for more information on past and future conferences or to learn more about the 2019 Traffic Safety Scholars Program, awarding undergraduate or graduate students interested in a career in traffic safety a scholarship to attend the next Lifesaver’s Conference in Louisville, KY.
The content and thoughts expressed in this blog are those solely of the author and are in no way representative of Lifesavers Conference, Inc., it’s presenters, sponsors or traffic safety partners.